Hello, Panama City! Today we want to explore one of the most common questions we hear from our patients who are considering tooth replacement options: Which is better, a dental bridge or dental implant? You may have done a little research on your own, but there’s a lot out there to know about these two restorative options. Additionally, there’s a lot of technical jargon that can get you lost and frustrated! Today, Dr. Anish Patel and our team at Panama City Smiles have some simple answers to inform you better, so that when you’re ready to make a decision, you can do what’s best for you.
If you have one or more missing teeth but haven’t started your search for the best option, we hope today’s first installment of our three-part series sheds some light on the issue.
What is a dental bridge?
First, let’s take a minute to look at what a dental bridge actually is. A bridge is exactly what it sounds like: a device that bridges the gap where your tooth once sat in your mouth. It’s made up of a series of crowns, usually made of porcelain. One crown acts as a false tooth to fill the gap, while at least two other crowns are fitted over the two teeth on either side of the gap. These teeth help support the bridge.
The crowns are all joined together as one unit, or they are connected to a gumlike base that fits over your natural gums. If you have several missing teeth in a row, then more crowns will be used to replace your missing teeth and support the entire bridge.
What is a dental implant?
A dental implant is a small, screw-shaped or cylindrical titanium post that is “implanted” under your gums. A dental restoration – crown, bridge, or dentures – is attached firmly to the implant post to restore your missing tooth.
The titanium post functions as a tooth root. When you lose a tooth, you lose not only the crown (the white visible portion that you think of as a tooth), but you also lose the root that’s attached and sits under your gums. That means an implant replaces the tooth root up to the crown.
What’s the difference between a bridge and an implant?
Now that you know what each restorative option is, let’s take a peek at the their differences and learn about some advantages and disadvantages of both.
A bridge does not replace the tooth root, while an implant does.
We already hinted at this one. A bridge rests on your gums and is attached using your teeth. An implant is surgically placed into your jawbone underneath your gums and functions as a root. Once the bone and gums heal, this titanium root will be a steady foundation for your crown or even a bridge to replace several missing teeth.
An implant strengthens your jawbone and prevents it from deteriorating, while a bridge does not.
Even if you’re missing one tooth, your jawbone will begin to deteriorate underneath. Because an implant uses a sturdy titanium root that integrates with your jawbone and builds it up, it helps keep your bone in tact. The strong root also allows you to chew normally, which stimulates the bone and strengthens it.
A bridge helps restore your chewing and speaking abilities, but not as much as an implant.
A bridge gives you what you didn’t have before: a tooth! This means you can eat and speak because you don’t have a hole that makes these things difficult or painful. But because a bridge doesn’t have the root underneath it and a deteriorating bone, it can’t restore these abilities to the same extent that an implant can. In fact, an implant can help you speak and eat with almost the same force as your natural teeth!
An implant allows you to eat what you want, while a bridge may have some restrictions.
This all comes back to the root of the problem, so to speak! Because of the implant’s strong titanium root, it can withstand normal chewing forces. Those forces go to the titanium root, just like your natural tooth’s forces go to your natural tooth’s root. With a bridge, however, all your chewing forces go directly to your gums, which are definitely not as durable as titanium!
This distribution of force when you chew means you can eat what you want with implants. Although your crown on top is still susceptible to damage – just like your natural tooth can get damaged by chewing ice or hard candy – it has that sturdy foundation underneath to keep you eating all the crunchy apples, steak, and corn on the cob you want!
What Will You Choose?
To sum it up, bridges and implants are great because they replace your missing teeth and help restore the functions of your mouth. But implants have a strong, titanium foundation that prevents bone loss, strengthens your bone, and allows you to eat what you want and speak without difficulty.
Did you know that there are so many more differences between these two? Read our next blog post to find out more! You can also make an appointment with Dr. Patel to talk about Panama City dental implants and bridges in person! For a FREE consultation or second option, contact us today!